Thursday, June 05, 2008

Renew Your Vows

An intention for Shavuot 2008

By Amichai Lau-Lavie
Verse Per Verse

Once upon a time, up on top of a mountain, a rare moment in human history happened: the veil between the worlds parted, and, briefly, the realm of the divine and the reality of humanity connected on earth. The encounter was accompanied by thunder, lightening, a silence deeper than any other, and the blowing of ram's horns, that piercing cry that some poets claim is what God actually sounds like.

This is just one way of describing the mystery that is known as Revelation on Mount Sinai – a historical (or is it mythical?) milestone in which the Torah - literally –'the teaching' - was revealed to our ancestors, kicking off the Jewish people's journey of literacy, legal disputations, and endless love of learning the lore.

At Sinai, it is told, a deal was sealed; a covenant between God and Israel. God gave the Word – the Torah, the people gave their word – their agreement to make the Torah their road map and sacred path. According to mystical traditions, Sinai was a wedding – God and the people as bride and groom, face to face, each needing the other, each vowing to love each other and be there for each other, always.

If Sinai was a wedding, then Shavuot, the holiday coming up next week is the anniversary. And like anniversaries, it is an opportunity to revisit the makings of the relationship. Shavuot – the Hebrew word meaning 'weeks' marks the counting of 7 weeks since Passover. But the Hebrew word Shavuot also means 'vows'. Thus, this holy day is a celebration of Revelation, an annual opportunity to recreate and revisit the mystery, honor the legacy, and renew the vows. Every relationship needs a boost and a refresher – or at least an annual check up, and the relationship with the great mystery which is known as God is no different.

Traditionally, Jews stay up the night of Shavuot to celebrate the gift of Torah – reviewing the small print of the agreement before agreeing to renew the vows. Technically, the contract is binding, and the deal is done, but from another perspective, each and every Shavuot is a real opportunity for each and every one of us – as individuals, and as communities – to honestly re-examine our 'buy in' and refocus our interests, questions, and priorities of focus. What needs more work? Where, in this relationship, have things gone sour? Where has doubt overshadowed love?

This Shavuot I'd like to invite each one of us to privately examine our personal relationship with our spiritual path, our core truths, and our intimate bond with whatever our private definition of God is. Stay up, as late as you can, on Shavuot night. With friends and loved ones, or maybe alone, discuss the contract, the vows. Coffee helps, as do blintzes.

If you were to choose only ONE ritual, value, thought pattern to represent the Torah – the vows - just one that you will firmly commit to revisit, vow to maintain in order to strength your relationship with the spiritual path – what would it be?

Stay up all night.. bring on the dawn, take this advice from the poet Rumi:

"Don't go to sleep one night.

What you most want will come to you then.

Warmed by a sun inside, you'll see wonders."

Shabbat shalom,
And a delicious night of revelation,


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